Plans for Faculty and Staff Housing, Conference Center Progressing

Posted: December 18, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Living in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets is great … if you’re a seller. But purchasing a home in such a market can be daunting.

Mason’s close proximity to Washington, D.C., is an added bonus for faculty, staff and students. However, neighboring the capital comes with a relatively high price tag.

To ease the sticker shock for prospective faculty and staff coming from other regions of the country, Mason is making strides toward the development of 150 faculty/staff housing units on the northeast corner of the Fairfax Campus. The units are expected to enhance Mason’s recruitment efforts and retention numbers by providing below-market rental housing.

The idea, first raised by Provost Peter Stearns more than three years ago, mimics the efforts of many other universities located in high-priced areas. The development will have a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments that would be move-in ready by the summer of 2009. Though the homes are still in the design phase, 20 acres of land have been allocated for the building site.

Drawing of faculty/staff housing
This drawing shows a possible configuration for the faculty/staff housing development in the northeast section of the Fairfax Campus.

“Offering these homes at below-market values will play a significant role in recruiting top-notch faculty to the university,” says Tom Calhoun, vice president for facilities. “They’ll have the choice of staying in these transition homes for up to three years while they familiarize themselves with the region and determine where they wish to live permanently.”

The development of the faculty/staff housing units is supported by a study conducted in 2005 by Brailsford & Dunlavey, a facility planning and program management firm, and Studley, a real estate consulting firm. After completing a detailed economic analysis of the local and national real estate markets and an analysis of local and national competitor housing supply, the firm concluded the housing was “critical to ensuring that the university could recruit and retain the highest quality of faculty and staff.”

Another project on the construction list for the Fairfax Campus is a hotel and conference center planned for the southern part of the campus. Also due to be completed in 2009, the center will provide a first-class venue for university events, academic conferences and additional recruitment initiatives of students and faculty.

hotel conference center drawing
An artist’s drawing of the planned hotel and conference center for the Fairfax Campus.

Because of limited hotel accommodations and professional meeting spaces near the campus, developers anticipate the center will be a strong crowd-puller. And not only will it address the needs of the university, but it will also offer meeting space for the surrounding community.

“Having a well-run, attractive and well-designed conference center on campus provides academic programs a wonderful opportunity to showcase the George Mason faculty, staff, students, campus and community,” says Jody Winter, project manager of the conference center.

Like the housing units, the hotel and conference center is still in the design phase. But project consultants estimate the structure will be approximately 130,000 gross square feet and will include 150 guest rooms, a restaurant and lounge, a 24,000-square-foot conference center, two ballrooms and nine other meeting spaces of varied sizes.

Winter says the goal is to build a conference facility that is not only attractive and well designed with good traffic flow, but also one that reflects Mason’s innovative campus atmosphere.

map showing plan of hotel-conference center
This map shows the site plan for the hotel-conference center. Braddock Road is to the south.

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